I have been working online since 1992 when I bought my first laptop. It was an Apple ‘Powerbook’ which was big and chunky, and I still have it. Back then though, no-one knew what a ’digital nomad’ was, or even knew the name. What I was, was a travel writer who travelled the world writing stories and having them published. At the time, it was very handy to have a ‘Powerbook’ to type up my article as it made life easier for the editor. The whole concept of this has changed immensely with lighter and slimmer laptops, Wi-Fi and the lure of staying longer in a far-flung place.
I started my first website in 1993 to sell my travel guide Live Work and Play in London and the UK. On this website I had various pages with the latest working holiday visa information and a page called ‘Pack Yack – Tales from the Road’. Here, I would put travel stories. Unknowingly, I was blogging! How funny, when I look back now. And suddenly, what I have been doing for the past 30 years has a name – Digital Nomad. So I do feel I am qualified to write this blog post to help you start your journey and master your life as a digital nomad.
Every digital nomad’s journey is different. Being able to work online from anywhere in the world is just amazing. I am afforded the flexibility to make my own hours to make money so I can continue to travel. But it hasn’t all been a bed of roses. Myself and many of my travel blogging friends have found it hard to adjust at times. Trying to find the right work/life balance can be a struggle but once found, life can be wonderful. The following 9 tips for mastering life as a digital nomad have helped me to find my perfect work/life balance and I hope they will help you too.
Don’t quit your job straight away
I know you want to, and I wanted to also, but don’t quit your job straight away to dive into the life of being a digital nomad. While some people may suggest you throw caution to the wind, it is much smarter to work out a plan first. A business in general usually take at least 12 months to start turning a profit, and some can take years! What most digital nomads do is to start a side hustle first based on their plan. For me, this plan involved working for 12 months in my job in the bank to save $10,000 to cover my expenses when I started travelling. While I worked during the day, I worked on my side hustle – travel writing – at night. After 12 months, I left my job in the bank and began writing full-time. And financially, things were tight. I stayed in hostels and worked from my bunk or a coffee shop. This life wasn’t a bed of roses but I persevered and it is paying off. As well as having your business plan have a plan of where you want to be. I mean, which country or countries? Having a clear plan, and a business that is hopefully making money, you can enjoy life as a digital nomad rather than being stressed about how you can afford to be where you are. So don’t quit your job – yet!
Differentiate Clearly Between Work and Travel
One of the hardest things about being a digital nomad or working remotely is that you can spend way too much time enjoying your travels. You might be going out each day to different sights, while also enjoying the new foods and meeting the locals. All this can impact on your work time. To ensure you get your work done, you must be able to differentiate clearly between your work and your travel. The best thing to do is create a strict calendar or diary. This will ensure you get everything done. If you looked at my calendar you might see – Marketing Monday, Writing Wednesday and Fun Friday!
The best digital nomads dedicate the appropriate time to getting things done. This could include dividing up your day. For instance on my Marketing Monday, I check my emails for the first hour, then I do 2 hours marketing, then lunch. After lunch, I might have the afternoon to myself or do some writing and then dinner. Which ever strategy you choose, try to stick to it – and if it doesn’t work, change it!
Take your time Travelling
That’s right, take your time travelling. If you go too fast, like seeing 10 cities in 10 days you will find you may not have the time to fit in your work. Actually, I know you won’t have the time. And burnout is on the cards. Consider spending weeks or longer in the one place. This way, you can immerse yourself in the destination and build productive habits to get your work done. And you will be able to set up your gear properly and have a productive working environment.
Have the Appropriate Gear and Set-up To Be a Digital Nomad
When you work online, you need the right gear so you can deliver your work on time and at a high quality. This is why you need the appropriate gear. Depending on the work you do, gear varies. All digital nomads require a computer / lap top to work on and a comfortable space to work. One of the best things I have ever bought for my digital office is a laptop stand. Access to fast Wi-Fi is also a must so ensure before you book accommodation, Wi-Fi is available. Having the appropriate gear and the right set-up which is a comfortable working space, will ensure you are productive when you need to be productive. I would highly suggest you look into a VPN to keep you and your information protected. And once your work is done, you can go out and enjoy yourself.
My first Apple Powerbook from the 1990s and my current Apple Laptop
Connect with Locals and Other Nomads
Being a digital nomad can be a lonely existence. This is because you are a nomad and not staying in the one place for a long time, so friendships and relationships come and go! To combat any loneliness get out and about. Go meeet locals and other travellers and network with other digital nomads. Connecting with people regularly can help keep you mentally stimulated. If you are finding it hard to find connections check out sites such as Coworker.com which is a great place to find co-working spaces. Or Meetup.com which offers the chance to meet up with other digital nomads. Or stay in places like hostels to keep connecting with people. You may even get more work from these connections!
Check the Time Difference
If your digital nomad lifestyle involves you teaching English online or requires meetings with other people, ensure to keep in mind any time differences. There is nothing worse than having to wake at 3am to undertake a lesson or to take a conference call! However, you never know where you will be when travelling so ensure you know what you are letting yourself in for. There might be times when you will need to communicate at ungodly hours however, I would let your clients know when they can expect a reply. I suggest, you work on their time, not yours. There is nothing worse being a client and waiting on work to arrive. You can use apps such as Time Zone Converter to work out times in different cities.
Purchase Travel Insurance
I never leave home without travel insurance. Depending on where I am going, and what I am doing influences the travel insurance policy I purchase. I’ve had a number of mishaps (lost and stolen luggage), and sickness and injuries (sprained ankle after a fall), so I know how beneficial it is to have. As I mentioned, it depends where I am going as to what policy I purchase. If I am going for a two week adventure I usually take out insurance with WoldNomads. However, if I am travelling for an extended time and taking my digital nomad equipment I go with Safety Wing. Their policies are geared to those working online and travelling.
Don’t Forget to Log Off and Enjoy Yourself
When I first started, I found it hard to work out when to log off from my screen and enjoy myself. I was so involved with growing my travel writing and online business that I put work first. It was nothing for me to be lying in bed checking emails first thing in the morning and last thing at night. My health began to suffer as I wasn’t eating properly or exercising. Which when I look back, I was in exotic and exciting cities or in a resort area with pristine beaches and I was in my room, working. I soon realised, I could easily have stayed home and done this! So I changed things, I stick to my calendar of work and once I have completed the task/s for the day. I now log off and enjoy the vibrant cities or the beach side resort. Because this is the digital nomad life I want.
Lastly, on my list of mastering your life as a digital nomad I suggest one of the best things I have done as a digital nomad is to outsource work. It took me a long time to actually do this as I felt I didn’t have enough work for someone else. Plus, I found it hard to let go because I felt no-one else could do my work as good as me. But when you are swamped and don’t know which way to turn, outsourcing some of your jobs, particularly the ones I’m not great at, will help you get on top of your work/life balance that as a digital nomad we crave. I should make the point here that sometimes you need to invest in your business to enable it to grow and to make money. So I invest in outsourcing tasks that I need help with. For instance, I have a Pinterest whiz who designs and schedules my pins. Having him lets me concentrate on other things, particularly those things I am good at, like the writing!
These are my 9 tips for mastering life as a digital nomad. If you are already a digital nomad roaming the world and working online I’m sure you will have encountered these issues. And if you are starting out, these are things to consider. I am sure you will find some of your own digital nomad issues as you travel so I would love to hear them in the comments following.
Sharyn McCullum has travelled all her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. She loves travelling to different countries to immerse herself in the culture and in particular, enjoy the food. She currently calls Melbourne, Australia home.